Bergman Associates has been contracted to perform design work on the downgrading of Route 198, which they presented on Wednesday at Buffalo State College’s Bulger Communications Center. There was strong and deep interest in the project — around 100 area residents, city activists, and students were in attendance.
The design recommendation that they presented — dubbed “A Boulevard in a Park” — was not particularly well received and, during a question and answer session, was roundly criticized by attendees.
“I don’t understand why they aren’t presenting us with the removal option. Of course we should be studying that alternative,” said North District Councilman Joe Golombek, who represents the neighborhood “I support full removal of the expressway.”
Judge Thomas Amadeo shook his head in agreement. “This could be so beautiful,” he concurred.
Golombek has long sought to better integrate the Buffalo State College campus into the surrounding neighborhood. Years ago he proposed linking the campus to Amherst Street near Wegmans with a pedestrian bridge.
It seems that there exists a palpable desire to remove the Scajaquada in its entirety, and replaced with enhanced public spaces and pedestrian promenades. Some, including myself, were upset that the design firm did not present the option of fully reallocating traffic to the street grid — which would have the effect of reinvigorating neighborhood commercial districts.
When prodded to study the removal alternative (by me an others) the design staffs’ responses were condescending and dismissive half-thoughts that blatantly revealed how little they’ve seriously reflected on potential alternatives to their recommended design. In fact, the structure of the public engagement process was insulting. Isn’t their role to solicit public feedback and to then design the vision that the community has articulated for itself?
Congressional candidate Eddie Egriu was also in attendance. Egriu wants to see highway removal pursued aggressively, and is campaigning against Brian Higgins on the issue. In addition to removal of the Scajaquada, Egriu would like to see the conversion of the Kensington Expressway into a parkway that is capable of moving large volumes of traffic swiftly, but in a way that interacts better with pedestrians and encourages neighborhood reinvestment.
“Rebuilding a roadway through Delaware Park would be like rebuilding an elevated highway on the outer harbor: an utterly stupid and expensive mistake that will haunt us for years,” he said.
Please consider submitting your comments: www.dot.ny.gov/Scajaquadacorridor
Apologies for the picture quality; the design firm’s images below can be seen on the State DOT website.